Loonie strengthens as easing virus fears boost oil prices

FILE PHOTO: A Canadian dollar coin, commonly known as the "Loonie", is pictured in this illustration picture taken in Toronto January 23, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar strengthened against its U.S. counterpart on Tuesday as hopes rose that the coronavirus epidemic may be close to peaking, boosting the price of oil, one of Canada’s major exports.

U.S. crude oil futures CLc1 settled 0.8% higher at $49.94 a barrel as the number of new coronavirus cases slowed in China, easing some concerns about lengthy destruction of oil demand.

Still, oil has fallen more than 20% from its January peak, which could hurt prospects for new investment in Canada's energy sector. The federal government must rule by the end of February whether Teck Resources Ltd TECKb.TO can build a massive oil sands mine in northern Alberta.

At 5 p.m. (2200 GMT), the Canadian dollar CAD=D4 was trading 0.2% higher at 1.3287 to the greenback, or 75.26 U.S. cents. The currency, which hit on Monday its weakest intraday level in four months at 1.3330, traded in a range of 1.3276 to 1.3320.

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz is due to participate in a panel discussion on Thursday in Melbourne, Australia, which could offer clues on the outlook for interest rates.

Last month, the central bank opened the door to an interest rate should a recent slowdown in domestic growth persist. But data since then has showed that the economy added more than twice the number of jobs than expected in January.

Canadian government bond yields rose across the yield curve in sympathy with U.S. Treasuries as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell was fairly upbeat about the outlook for the U.S. economy in the first of his twice-a-year updates to Congress.

The 10-year yield CA10YT=RR was up 4.3 basis points at 1.363%.

Ontario, one of the world’s largest sub-sovereign debtors, has launched a 7-year green bond with an issue size of C$500 million, a representative for the province’s finance ministry said, confirming an earlier Reuters report.

Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Lisa Shumaker